Tag Archives: PlayStation 4

Taught by the past

There will always be one TV channel that remains in my heart. It does not matter how they go, what series they have and whether they stop existing. They had one thing right, the one thing above it all was their slogan ‘the story is everything‘, it still reverberates in my heart, and for years (when I had cable) they proved that they understood their own premise. The story was indeed everything and they stood by it. It should be the cornerstone in entertainment, but it is not (for some). Some have a setting that is nowhere near there. It does not matter how they go that journey, how they pass the time in their product, they forgot that one truth that makes all the difference.

This takes us to Eidos. I had a good connection there for the longest time, so when I got an early copy in the summer of 1996 to take a look at some game called Tomb Raider I had no idea what I was in for. I loved it, apart from the part that the hero was a woman, the game was new, it was different and we all wanted more, that would be delivered a little over a year alter and for the most we were all hooked, not merely because of Lara, little Lara, but the setting from the first to the second became a much larger leap. Even as the story for both was not the greatest, the levels, the design and the challenges made up for that. Over time we saw that the story become much more important and as we went through the stages, on PlayStation, PC, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the story evolved and it became to some degree a real story. In all this there was an evolution (to some degree). Now we are confronted with ‘Tomb Raider – makes Lara Croft look boring‘. The Guardian gives us (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/sep/10/shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-review-lara-croft) “This game revels in its own beauty, but the plot collapses under the slightest scrutiny“, now first the important part. I did not play it myself, but I saw a large amount of videos. First the bad part, a few games back. When the definitive version on PS4 was launched, I became very upset. Not only was the game shallow, too easy (on hard) and way too small. It became the first game I ever returned to the shop. I had finished the game in hard mode under 10 hours. It was perhaps one of the most upsetting acts I ever did, mainly because my gaming experience with Lara Croft over 4 systems had been so good. When we look deeper into that game we see something that was perfectly placed on an island, the setting could have propelled in many direction and the graphics were amazing, even now I look back (in my mind) to that level when you arrive near the ocean and you see that large tugboat in the sea, I need to acknowledge that graphically it was an amazing feat, so when we see the setting where we could have had at least 20 hours of additional play, but the makers overlooked or ignored that opportunity. In a gaming sidestep, I realised the same with Assassins Creed Rogue, the remastered edition. What could have been nice story to side missions ended up being merely the setting of running to a marker and press the dig button or simply violently resolve it. All opportunities missed (in that case) by Ubisoft. So back to Lara, after that disappointing episode, I decided to give the second game a miss, something I partially regret now, because the third game (for hat I saw was a pretty amazing result). The graphics were still really good, yet the story is, as I saw it better and they took effort with the stealth part. A much better game overall (comparing to the first relaunched PS4 game). I liked Lucy O’Brien’s review in IGN giving us the parts that count (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEfROL2Wx8). If there is one part that I personally do not like is the use of ‘scripted moments‘. I get it that it essentially needs to be there (especially in the introduction), but in the end, the best game does not require scripted events, or requires them to be minimised to the biggest possible degree. Even as the stories are better, we need to address the Guardian verdict. We see the first quote “Shadow of the Tomb Raider nails the former, with sumptuous South American locations to climb, dive and rappel around, ranging from ancient Inca cities and missionary crypts to modern-day Peruvian jungles and towns. But it does Lara a disservice, turning her into a deadly mud-camouflaged jungle warrior without much interesting to say, pushed along by a plot that’s more concerned with prophecies and supernatural artefacts than with its main character“, so was that not always the case? I personally like the entire stealth upgrade, but is that just me? It might be, I was merely in that setting of trying to figure parts out. Yet I saw too many references towards Uncharted and Far Cry 5, which makes sense and it is not a bad thing, yet when we look back at what was and what should be, going through the other titles is not what I hoped for. Still Tomb Raider for all I saw remains Tomb Raider, so why did the Guardian give me that jump?

There were two parts in that. The first was: “Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s series of amazing places is held together by a plot that collapses under the slightest scrutiny. The narrative is an incoherent mess that goes well beyond the usual action movie/video game suspension of disbelief” and “when Lara shows up in an undisturbed native settlement filled with people who have somehow avoided the outside world for hundreds of years, is she instantly welcomed into their midst and put to work resolving their disputes? How does she communicate fluently with them? At first, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s narrative inconsistencies are ignorable, but with every new convenient riddle or magical artefact, pointless revelation or paper-thin character, my tolerance for nonsense wore thinner“. Now, I need to tell you that I do not always agree with the assessment of the reviewer Keza MacDonald, yet that level of disagreement is more about our preference for gaming. Keza is a good reviewer, hence her view matters to me, and I have absolutely no issue accepting her view on the Tomb Raider game. I like her two issues as I saw a similar setting as an optional solution towards Watch Dogs 3. Just like I designed what might optionally become Elder Scrolls VII (6 is being made now). My setting for my version of a new Elder scrolls would have been three times the size of Skyrim with optional story lines worth 150-200 hours of gameplay. In addition, if possible I could pull it off with Watch Dogs 3 as well. This is where the FX part comes in, the story is indeed everything!

So if I can add 100% to the first PS4 Tomb Raider, which merely took me an hour or so to come up with, why can some designers not do a much better job? In case of the new Tomb Raider, we see the optional shortage, but we also see that all the Far Cry games (3 and later) gave us similar parts and so did Far Cry Primal, and the less said on the story failings of Assassins Creed (except for Origin and optionally Odyssee) the better.

The setting is extremely important, as the current Shadow of the Tomb Raider could have been 90% instead of the 81% that Metacritic gives it now, and if we translate that to the three stars Keza rating, it would translate to an optional 70% at best. This gets us back to the story is everything, when we see that this translates to an optional 15%-25% more, ignoring that element is just too weird. It is to some extent the one element that Games and movies have in common. So if we translate that to the now, we see that the right story makes the larger impact. Merely see Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai, rated by IMDB at 93% to see how the right story makes for the impact. This translates to games as well, the better the story, the better the game. It is visible on nearly every level. Yet, that is not the only part in Tomb Raider and We see the goods on the negative side of the game as Keza gives it to us with: “Salvaged outfits for Lara offer meaningless bonuses (“gain more experience for assault kills”), crafting materials are so plentiful that they are not an exciting reward, and new skills or weapons are seldom used. Oddly, items such as lockpicks that open up new treasure-hunting possibilities are sold by merchants, not earned through exploration. It is very weird that so much of this optional content is incorporated so badly“, as well as “The places Lara visits and the things that she does, especially when she doesn’t have a gun in her hands, are beautiful and entertaining. But it lacks a coherent plot or creative vision to hold it all together, and the opportunity to make an interesting character out of Lara Croft is squandered“, that does grasp the heart in a not so good way and it matters a parts could have been dealt with in a better story setting and parts would never have been better. That negative part is exactly the impact that Ubisoft missed with AC Rogue. There we run for Viking swords, crosses on the map, opening bars with thugs, merely points to run to, yet the ‘rescuing’ of a bar from thugs could have been the start of a side quest line and in all this, much more could have been reached, when one leads to the other, instead of running over the island, from chest to chest, glitch to glitch and sometimes doing a Prince of Persia for some pirate shanty, meaningless actions that could have been a dimension all by itself in the game, all options lost and even as both franchises have amazing graphics, we see that this alone does not hold a game. I wonder how many developers are revisiting the current setting of their game that is in development, because if they are not then it does not matter to anyone how many games are being released between now and December 2019. If they do not up the ante for their own game, they will merely release something that is good, not great and it sits on the shelf until the game retail store has a large sale and the game is up for grabs at 50% or less, or people merely wait for one of the producers to add it to the ‘for free’ subscription monthly download bonus, what a waste! Merely because the simplest of all lessons was ignored by too many; It all starts with a good story, not with ‘Lara needs to look cool (or different) in the jungle, how can we do that?‘, or ‘Where is the next Assassins Creed story? When have we not yet been?

 

That is the part given to us in complete contrast when we realise that with the end of God of War we were treated to: [CENSORED TEXT REDACTING SPOILERS]. When I saw that unfold on my screen, my jaw dropped on the floor. It was not merely some twist, it was the setting for at least two more games in a way I never saw coming and I do remember my Nordic mythology. It was brilliant, indeed the story was everything and Santa Monica Studio’s treated us to the perfect meal (listening to Bear McCreary was an added desert that is just too surreal).

In the end, I know that I am a goof, I am creative and I can weave a tale like no one in my mind at the speed of the Deep Blue Super Mainframe, but overall, I cannot fathom why the game makers are not better at this, I never got that, because until lately I never thought I was on their level, yet recently I was shown (confirmed by a few sources) that I am on their level and even higher, but I am not a programmer. So when I see the lack of a storyline, I merely get sad, when opportunities are missed I get frustrated and when too much scripted issues show up, I tend to get angry. I do get the fact that some part requires scripted events. A certain boss fight, the introduction to one is the setting that cannot remains unscripted, yet at times it is too scripted deflating the tense moments it had been built to and the first PS4 Lara Croft had that flaw too much (as well as the shortness of the game).

So how can they do it better? Well this is seen in several clips in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and you might have missed them. Consider an optional reality, a reality we missed in the Far Cry, Assassins Creed and other games. You pick them off one at a time, I get that part. What I do not get is that when you are on a patrol and You are in a team, when one falls away their nerves are up (like in the Arkham games), yet in the earlier games, often enough they relax and go to their old ‘relaxed’ setting. In reality, my nerves would be in the stratosphere, so there will be no lapse and even as you can get the drop on others, only the first one is ‘free’, the others need to be close to perfect or all hell breaks loose. That part was never learned correctly, not in one decade of stealth gaming, weird is it not? OK, Far Cry did get that part right (to some degree). And even as the setting evolves over an act, a larger level or a chapter in the storyline, we see that some opponents are harder, yet the overall setting no longer gets to be more complex, which is also weird. It seems to me that only Far Cry 3 got that part better the most other games and here too Lara had her lesson to learn, or better stated her opponents. So even as we see her take out the enemy, in most cases when other vanished nerves did not get that much bothered, a missed opportunity.

Even if this is the optional end of Lara Croft, we see that there was a lot more to be had and it was missed. Will that lesson not be learned? The story is everything, but how to set the story properly in the frame of it all. That part will remain a challenge and solving it, or finding some level of a better solution will aid the game makers as well as the player, a win-win for all. In this, the loss is already there, but not setting the in-game bar higher, we see what looks really well is merely a 70% game, yet with the insight that should have been there, it could have been a 90% game which makes me sad. Yet I do acknowledge is that this game is a good game, everything shows that there is positive growth in several places and in many ways (especially the underwater parts, they were awesome), yet I feel that it is steps short of being a great game, whilst it could have been a great game. It is hard to put my finger on it without playing the game through until the end, but all reviews do support my view, the story could have been better making it overall better, and this game is not the only one that had that ‘flaw’.

So, as we agree that the past is a good tutor we see that partially the past is used to make this game better, that is good, some of the levels and the natural view that these levels seem to give is always good and this game got to be better at it and that matters too. In the end, on everything I faced, I regard this to be a 80%-85% game, whilst I feel that the setting and upgrade of the game would have made it a 90% game at least, and they should have done better than I would have been able to be and that makes me sad, especially as it might be the end of the Tomb Raider games for now. It will not ever be the death of the Franchise; it is in comparison very much a better game than that first relaunched game and several other Lara titles, which is a good thing. In my personal views, after seeing the play parts, seeing the reviews and watching the cut scenes, I get to the end conclusion that this is not the game to buy on day one, especially with Spiderman PS4 available, yet on special, Christmas sales and at discount sales? Yes! At that point it will definitely be my game of choice.

What a difference a stronger story makes.

I wonder if the makers will catch up to that part down the line, because higher ratings turns that, down the track to buy outright and in the end, that is still the name of the game in gaming, and not merely gaming. There is in my view every indication that the entire Chris Pine mess (OK, mess is a perhaps too strong a word), is not entirely about the money (what some sources indicated), I believe that the story is part of that too. Do you think that some starts would have given any ‘eff’ (censored) on money if they had the chance of becoming a main player in The Usual Suspects, or Silence of the Lambs? You have got to be kidding!

Yes, you want some decent remuneration. When you are a lead player in MI-Fallout, costing $178M to make, whilst the return at present is $726,386,554, one would hope that their income is slightly better than $73,559 for their part. If you are an extra, then you need to shut up, when you carry the family name Cruise, Cavill, or Pegg the amount should be larger (I have no idea what they are making, and I personally do not care either). Yet if the story would have been a legendary one, would you care? That is the part that matters in the long run, because over time, we will forget the MI titles, however we will forever remember titles like Ghandi and The Usual Suspects and that can drive a career (especially in the beginning as well). Star Trek showed in the Movie Star Trek Beyond that it did not consider that part too strong (even as I enjoyed watching it, and it had fresh looks), it did fall short of Star Trek Into Darkness and that was a shame. I have no illusions, getting to the Wrath of Khan levels is not to be expected, yet the relaunch in 2009 did pull it off (based on Rotten Tomatoes), so in that it had options and started to fall flat after that, I believe that this is also part of the decision for some actors to feel worried, Star Trek (2009) opened door, yet I personally believe that Beyond started to close doors, even with Idris Elba upping the ante by a decent amount, also in my personal view largely the reason it got an 85% rating and not an 80% rating. So when the actor is the pillar and not the story, we see a much larger flaw in all this and even as I do have idea’s to fix it, they will need a specific person to fix that for them over two movies (as I see it) and get the rating back to 94%, the number that the 2009 movie pulled off. The question is can they afford him and more important, are they willing to stick their necks out? In my personal view they have the option of doubling the 2009 box office revenue twice over and with two movies the overall cost goes down as well making it even more appealing, but in the end, their saviour will not be special effects or merely a good cast, it will be the story, it will be everything. Are people like JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof willing to make that $250M splurge? In the end it remains an actual risk whether that $250M becomes $1.3B (hopefully better), and it the one factor is the one writer who can pull it off. It has never been done in any Sci-Fi ever, making it not merely novel, if it does work, will it be the game changer that brings 1,635% of cost (Jurassic Park), or an Iron Man 2 giving a mere 312%? Yet, what if we consider that it is like Gravity, ‘only’ 716%, yet regarded as the 4# best Science fiction movies of all time, would you still not do it?

How strong is the story in all that? I personally remain with the faith that the story will forever be everything, yet when it is all about the box office and $1 billion versus $600 million, what path would you take? In this games and movies are more alike than not; making it a fascinating setting, but also a very personal, and set on one’s own perspective. It is the ultimate objective versus subjective view and I am not sure what the best path is for either game or movie, making the setting for a movie of gaming score harder, not correct or incorrect, merely harder.

 

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The tail of a prophet

I spoke on all kinds of matters, and I also gave some upcoming predictions. So, on June 17th of 2017 I predicted: “So by the end of 2018 the console offset ‘Sony:Nintendo:Microsoft’ could end up being ‘13:9:2’. This would show Microsoft on how they truly bet on the wrong marketing horses. So I admit, it is a speculative prediction, yet the sales numbers are not that far off and my expected Nintendo growth is not unrealistic“. It was (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2017/06/17/after-the-e3/) where I decided to introduce the audience to some of the massive bungles that upper management at Microsoft is involved in. Now, if they replied (read: if, if is good), it would be along the way of ‘it is not our core business‘, or ‘we have all out vestment set to the Azure solution‘. Yet in that view options like Hadoop are already mentioned on the way out, getting replaced by a new flavour of Big Data. Microsoft has Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), but there the adaption is not on the curve they need it to be, so as we see other places become contenders, we realise that Microsoft is too big to just fall over, but as they wanted to be in the generic ‘let’s be there for everyone‘, I see (a personal believe) that those focusing on one part of a business that they are excelling and they are taking away customers left right and centre. Now, this is not a tidal wave, it is a slow process. Yet, in all, the quote I gave now has a serious side. Only last night did I get the news that the Nintendo Switch has hit the 5 million sales mark Compare this to PlayStation 4 Total Sales: 63.4 million and Xbox One Total Sales: 26.5 million (not entirely accurate as clear numbers are hard to find), both released in November 2013. So in 6 months Nintendo closed the gap by a lot. Nintendo is currently committed to get production up towards 2 million consoles a month and this is showing as some analysts (not the group I have the most faith in) have predicted that by March 2018 Nintendo will be expected to be seen in over 13 million homes. So in one year the Nintendo Switch will close the gap with the Microsoft Xbox. My predictions are still on speed to become a reality, yet the given by December 2018 might not be the case. If Nintendo releases the games they have planned on time, the curve will increase and whilst the Microsoft business analysts will bedazzle the people with Scorpio, 4K gaming and other things, the consumers are starting to realise that the people at Microsoft are less clued in on the gamers needs, a thing I clearly stated for close to 2 years (or was that 3 years) and now my predictions are slowly moving into the sunlight for all to see. At present my 13:9:2 is likely to be 12:5:3 no more than, yet Nintendo remains in 3rd place, which was the larger part that mattered. Still this is based on two players with 6 years and Nintendo with less than 2 years by the end of 2018, so even as consoles would have been sold, the Microsoft growth will stagnate as a larger population from their camp will switch to Nintendo and the family friendly games that Ubisoft produces are not helping the plight of Microsoft in any way.

You see, there are two groups and as Microsoft does not care about one of them, it is that group that will drive the dagger home so to speak. It is my personal believe that Microsoft is ignoring the people who bought one and they are realise that to some degree they ended with a lemon. Now these people are not going to jump to Sony, but with the Nintendo wave and the good pricing of that console they will consider the Switch for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there is a 95% chance that Nintendo will have a great Christmas on a near global level. You see, the group Microsoft neglected is now showing a dusty Xbox One, these people are not going to Scorpio and depending on their gaming prowess, not only will they advocate non-Microsoft solutions and buy a Switch, they will in theory prevent 2-3 other players getting an Xbox as well. So not only will Microsoft be fighting an uphill battle from the day they launch, their new system will be buried by the sales achievements that Nintendo is bringing to the ‘Just Dance’ floor, which will be a growing and is likely to be a Nintendo dominant dance floor. A nice little positive event (read: impressive achievement) for Ubisoft as well. A game that has hit the 25 million mark is showing to be as successful as the Xbox One console at present ever was. The fact that some Microsoft executives are not contemplating suicide is a small miracle to say the least. Perhaps they should have actually listened to the gaming community and not revere the spreadsheet they adhere to.

We see at present more and more news in both camps. One showing that Microsoft is more and more successful for the Scorpio, some show that Microsoft remains stagnant and are now setting $50 price drops and one source gives us “Only 13% Of Hardcore Gamers Plan On Buying An Xbox Scorpio“, which is a number I feel uncomfortable with as I expect that number to be at least twice as high. Yet between the expected buyer and the actual buyer there will be a gap and the results of Nintendo show that gap to likely be widening on a nearly daily basis. In other news, a few months ago we saw (at https://mspoweruser.com/project-scorpio-fails-impress-american-gamers-according-nielsen/) the title “Project Scorpio fails to impress American gamers according to Nielsen“. This fact is a lot more interesting were it not for one given part. When we consider the quote “Phil Spencer has to prove to gamers that they need to upgrade. The only way to do this is to show mind-blowing graphical upgrades and flood the internet and television with advertisements of the device” we need to wonder about the job Nielsen has in this. You see, ‘mind-blowing graphical upgrades‘ might seem nice, but in the end it is about good gaming and that has not been delivered by many games, not to the degree it needed to be. In the second, the part ‘flood the internet and television‘ might be to appease their other customers, but it does nothing for the gamers, only the badly informed consumers and that market has shifted a lot. It has shifted because people bought the WiiU and some of them are now hurting by the Xbox One, not in the smallest part because of unwanted and non-consensual uploads by the Xbox One into the Azure cloud. We are becoming more and more data savvy and the Microsoft helpdesk telling me (read: they really did) that this lies solely with the internet provider is a party line so stupid, it makes me want to vomit. So from the side of Microsoft, we see their hardware, their policies and their shortcomings, they sold out the gamer three times in a row with one console. that and the ignored part by Nielsen on how much of a blasting success the Switch was gives us more and more light that properly informing an audience is a loaded canon to say the least.

Now, I am willing to say that my data is not completely up to scrap. When we consider that several sources who give clear Sony sales records need to guess and get other data sources to compile the Microsoft numbers. The fact that Microsoft has been remiss (or pushing dates of publishing numbers) is one tactic to keep the diminishing group of Scorpio pre orders in the dark. The first set will be immediately sold out, that was never in question, but the three subsequent pushes are the ones that are in play. The war for Christmas is on and even as I have illusions regarding Nintendo winning that, there will be loads of Ps4pro’s and Scorpios on the list of plenty of kids. The A$650 might seem nice, but in the end, as people realise that storage remains an issue, having the A$675 2TB edition would have been the smarter move. Oh wait, that one does not exist because Microsoft did not consider the gamer in any of this, just their Teraflop speech laced with 4K resolution. That evidence is shown by Microsoft when we see “While Forza Motorsport 7 hasn’t been released yet and it won’t be out until October 3rd, the official Microsoft Windows store has listed the download size for the game and it is a gigantic 100 GB” (source: gearnuke.com), a factor I mentioned before, so as the 1TB drive loses around 300Mb for the operating system and store parts and so on, the gamer soon realises that there will only be space for 7 games in 4K. So how long was Microsoft going to hide that disaster? When you have to reinstall 3 games within 6 months and get the patches, how long until you get to be in an aggravated state of irritation? A clear issue that the Xbox One had and even as Microsoft had the ability to diffuse the situation, they decided to not do anything, which is another battle they lost to Sony and one that might drive more gamers towards the additional Nintendo pile of those who want to enjoy a game. This now also fuels the previous blog on digital rights (one that Euro gamer made me start after their video), because in that setting a physical copy on disc becomes more and more important to every gamer. Yet this is not all, it is the largest factor in gaming that is now starting to push the envelope to the degree that Microsoft will not be happy about. With the announcement of ‘a Nintendo Switch version for Fear Effect Sedna‘ just today will be coming to Switch pushes the bar as Microsoft is losing their exclusive range of games faster and faster. This is a known bar that both Sony and Microsoft pushed as much as possible, now that some iconic titles are also coming to Switch; the results will have an impact on all consoles (it will impact Sony to a much lesser extent). Even as I personally believe that some titles will not make a person not buy a game, but could push a gamer to get the Nintendo Switch on the side. This action results in more and more hazard points for the continuation of Microsoft consoles as a growing group of people are now cancelling pre-orders. Now, that is not an entirely accurate statement. Let me give you the ‘down low‘ on it. Last month has given more and more forums the issue where people came with the same issue “my Xbox One X pre-order was cancelled for no explainable reason by Target“. There seems to be a separate play going on. Some players never cancelled their pre-order, it seems that some players who wanted to make quick solid revenue are now confronted that their infrastructure cannot deal with the sudden ‘need’ of thousands of players and their systems seem to be unable to keep score to coin a phrase. So here Microsoft is wrongfully set in a bad light as other systems cannot deal with the infrastructure of some consumer chains and Target does not seem to be the only one. I believe that there are people having second thoughts, which will always happen. I believe that the ‘converted’ curve of Microsoft is a lot lower when we consider actual ‘converted’ gamers. So there are those numbers to consider as well. The backup in all this is that as cancellations happen, sales numbers might regionally shift and this is happening in the height of Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there will be a larger lash back to consider in January, but that will be a story for another day.

So as my tail is considering the tale of a console that was designed not fore gamers, but for players. Microsoft needs to sit down and make some clear considerations on where they went wrong and how they moved from second place to a possible degradation to initially position three, all because three factors that could have been directly avoided were ignored for (as I personally see it) other business needs.

A harsh situation that again, as I personally see it, is all the doing of Microsoft self and they only have themselves to blame, a market shift in merely 2 years. I wonder who they’ll blame when the numbers become crystal clear at the end of the next financial year. Perhaps it will give us a new console in 2018, the Microsoft EOFYbox, free with every Microsoft Surface Pro IV.

 

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Where is the egg timer?

There is an old saying that there is never an egg timer around when you need one. This being the usual response to a person shouting out: ‘watch this’, which is closely followed by moments of chaos. These things happens, they happen even more so when we act ‘ad-hoc’. Yet what should be the issue when we see ‘The 25 most anticipated video games of 2016‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/dec/30/video-games-2016-dishonored-2-uncharted-4-xcom-2) by Keith Stuart and Kate Gray, which was published on December 30th, whilst a mere 22 minutes ago, @gamespot presents: ‘Scalebound release date delayed to 2017‘ (at http://l.gamespot.com/1Z2AZVS), which was actually published yesterday. So when we see gamespot flaunt the title “Platinum Games says postponement was necessary to ‘deliver on our ambitious vision’”, now let’s face it, the timeline does not shift that much (2016 -> 2017) within 5 days. We could speculate that at the end of the year Keith Stuart and Co were casually careless at the end of the year, a speculation I myself reject because, even though I do not always agree with Keith, the man is a professional and he tends not to be careless in that regard. In the second, Platinum marketing might have tried to ride the waves of free publicity as much as possible, which is more likely than not the case, yet that would be a casually stupid path to take.

Perhaps there is the idea that instead of trying to feed (or create) hypes (especially in the gaming and movie world), the media at large needs to stop feeding us ‘junk’ (read: rehashed news) when a game is more than 20 weeks away. So, perhaps not mentioning any title that is more than 20 weeks away might not be the worst idea. It would stop hypes to a larger extent, it could result in a focus from the media towards the games of ‘now’ or ‘soon’, which offcourse would include a lot more independent developers. How much have we seen in the media, not on half-baked triple ‘A’ ‘publishers’, but on titles like Adrift, which comes from Three One Zero and will launch this quarter on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One? Is it not most anticipated, perhaps because the media ignored it?

It is my biggest issue with many gaming ‘pages’, especially in main stream media. Too many ignore interesting indie games that would be highly anticipated if more people were aware of it, yet many are pushed into the shadows as two ‘Big-Uns’ (EA and Ubisoft) get overly exposed on products well over a year away. I think that with the consumer in mind, these practices need to stop (or massively lessen). For example, it was only by accident that I stumbled upon Ghost of a Tale, an upcoming game for PC and XB1, I personally believe that this is not an anticipated game because the media seemed to have ignored it, but they kept on rehashing the same news on No Mans Sky again and again.

Which for a short time was understandable, but many kept on going when we heard the official news that the game was coming in June 2016, but as there were more speculations to be made, No Man’s Sky remained on the publications. The interesting part is that Ghost of a tale is a stealth game that would be very appealing to gamers that reside on the lower end of the Teenager scale (a rarity to say the least), what I saw reminded me of Don Bluth, specifically An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH. It came to life as a successful Indie go-go crowd-funding campaign and from what I saw it surpasses loads of games by ‘established’ software houses. How come not more information has seen the light through the media in regards to this title? You can see a lot more about the game at http://www.ghostofatale.com, they show the issues, the upgrades and more important just how amazing parts already look. The game got delayed from 2015 and it seems that 2016 could be the year of the mouse.

Just such a shame that the media at large does not take more time and space to see the wonderful world of the independent developer, with Technomancers on more than one platform and let’s not forget Kingdom Come by Warhorse Studios, it might initially not sound massively interesting as it seems to be released much later for Nextgen consoles, but the fact that the initial release includes both Linux and OS X should be massive as decent games for OS X tend to be really rare events. The fact that it is a Q2 release in 2016 makes it interesting to keep tabs on, as it would be released half a year earlier than games that are already receiving way to much exposure.

So as we look back on the egg timer, we must acknowledge two things, the first is that a sudden shift to another year is not the main reason, that’s just bad luck for some, but the fact that plenty of interesting games tend to not make the media (especially in their online editions) seems to be a lot less acceptable, especially when we see more and more lacking quality reviews. Yet these games all show that timing is still an issue to some degree, yet personally I find the shifting time lines a lot more acceptable from independent developers who try to get through with limited resources than the shifts we see in larger houses that are either close to or exceeding the billion dollar mark, there it is too often a failed form of managing expectations by not in the least of the culprits their own marketing departments; in addition, when I see what a mere independent mouse can show us graphically, I am happy that the group if independent developers is growing, because a mere dozen independent developers have shown me more to look forward to than several of the established branders of gaming. In all this I must point out that the Guardian article does give a fair bit of indie games attention, but they are one of few amongst way too many, which is a real shame.

For me, it is not about the 25 most anticipated games! I, like many others am a man on a budget. For me the important equations is, which games are released in the next 8-12 weeks, as my budget will allow me to purchase only one game, the hype creators seem to ignore that part, knowing that I have a few more options than many families with two working parents who are in possessions of often more than one playing growing young-ling, I would state that the media is ignoring a mainstream niche, one that should be rectified in 2016.

 

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Without even thinking

As I see it, Microsoft did not learn from the massive act of idiocy that Don Mattrick bestowed upon the Xbox One, when the quote “Microsoft’s Don Mattrick has addressed concerns about the compulsory connectivity requirements of Xbox One. ‘Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360,’ said Mattrick. ‘If you have zero access to the Internet, that is an offline device’”, the blowback in 2013 was massive and as such Microsoft had to take a few steps back, mainly because Microsoft had lost the trust of the people through the mere lust of data.

And now, without even thinking, Microsoft now does exactly that same thing as they rolled out Windows 10 on Xbox One. Once you have updated, you cannot play any games unless you have signed in online. A mandatory sign in! I reckon that Microsoft has now moved beyond a certain point, it is called betraying your customer base, so fuck you very much Microsoft!

Thank god there is Sony!

Without even thinking they pushed it out, forcing mandatory internet connectivity, the threat that made people jump towards Sony due to ‘the Mattrick equation’ will now assist to soar Sony’s PlayStation 4 even further. So if Phil Spencer gets a lovely bouquet from Andrew House we will all know the reason. So as this mistake was made just in time for the people of America just before Thanksgiving and for all other people before Christmas to cancel their Xbox One order and change their order to a PlayStation 4.

There will still be an issue for me; you see to keep the PlayStation competitive it needs a nemesis. If we accept that the Xbox will run dry another solution needs to be found. Perhaps Google will father a sibling next to their console and make one for true high level gaming. Perhaps it will be an upgraded Steam based reality, perhaps something truly new. They might be the only one who can replace Microsoft. I reckon that is not the only field where Microsoft will lose. As it has ‘mesmerised’ the media with a massively overpriced tabled with a soft keyboard (the Surface 3) at almost twice the price of the most powerful iPad, being at almost 400% of a Chromebook that can be stronger from the word go by inserting an $80 CF card you get the 32Gb storage the surface has (they have bigger models too), yet these CF cards can be switched in mere seconds. This is not me becoming anti-Microsoft, this is me informing the consumer that they should not take any ‘easy’ path but they should consider that alternatives should be considered. The fact that Microsoft becks out on their earlier promise, how long until they break other promises? What options will they have AFTER they paid $2293 for a Microsoft Surface Pro 3?

Yes, we cannot deny that there is still a market for Microsoft, but they are now pricing themselves out of a market by no longer being reliable, because how long until every device is forced onto the land of THEIR cloud systems and how private will your data be? Part of that was addressed by ZDNet today, the rest (the press at large) seemed to have ignored the Xbox issues. Perhaps they decided to hold out for advertiser’s funds like hungry debutants! Yes, the press is not the reliable force of true information it ones was.

ZDNET gives us another part that connects to this (at http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-updates-privacy-statement-addressing-concerns-from-critics/), stating “Microsoft recently revised its global Privacy Statement, with a few minor changes and some significant additions aimed at cooling overheated privacy concerns“. The article is for the most about the user’s privacy and it goes into lengths to do that, so if you fear your ‘privacy’ then read the article and fear no more. The article addresses it quite clearly but then stops short of dealing with the mandatory login (which was not part of the article in all fairness), which is now one step away from ending preowned gaming. An entire economy now in direct possible threat.

But back to the consoles!

The fact that this escalation has happened is also a blessing now, because as people realise before Thanksgiving that whatever Microsoft device is gifted at thanksgiving, it will be the thanksgiving present for Microsoft, not for the intended person that would be the recipient of the console, so How crazy is that?

Thank god we have Sony!

Between now and late 2016, the PS4 will have 15 titles on its sleeve that are PS4 only, some of them have been jaw dropping, as such PS4 remains the compatible system that does not demand you to be online, yet until the Achievements remain offline, that part is not too realistic. Sony has in addition kept its word throughout the PS2, PS3 and PS4 era, something that cannot be said for Microsoft as the promised backward compatibility on the 360 was not delivered on and now that it has some backwards compatibility, the issue of being forced online is a massive setback to gamers all over the world.

Thank god we have Sony!

Sony is not without flaws either, yet this level of backstabbing has never been ‘offered’ by Sony, which gives Microsoft now a massive disadvantage with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, so the gap between Sony and Microsoft could widen even further. When we consider that Sony has a 2:1 growing lead and even as the Microsoft Marketing engine is trying to flog statements like “Sony PlayStation 4 sells 22 million, but Microsoft has backward compatibility“, whilst not revealing that online presence on a daily basis is now mandatory gives food for thought and the served meal is no longer that appealing.

In all this if Xbox takes another massive hit, so much the better, they need a little humbling experience, because even though the gamers tend to be online, to be forced there is not what they signed up for and if Microsoft is breaking its word, what else will it break its word on? Pre-owned games perhaps? Because if this is where gamers are going, they will be happy to switch trains any way they can. Microsoft just didn’t realise the impact of that move, the worse for them I say!

In the end, what are the fact of life? The people do not mind being online, they mind being forced there, no matter how we feel about some marketed stream of ‘media’ like the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/games/xbox-one-finally-finds-its-feet-with-backwards-compatibility-gamesfocused-dashboard-20151115-gkzq7p.html). Is it not interesting how Tim Biggs remained unaware how people MUST be online now so that they can sign in?

Thank god we have Sony!

Yet in all this, we have ignored an alternative player, perhaps they will come with a new console called ‘the Black Hole’, a device that equals the next ‘PS4+’ allows for gaming, internet and streaming. That has an interchangeable drive and can be the centre of your devices to you can synch your mobile and tablet. All things the gamer does, all this whilst he/she plays a game, by themselves or with/against friends. Connected was never the issue, it was the non-consensual part that had everyone miffed, so if you do something you truly want, yet you get there without consent, does that not equal getting screwed over?

They did that to you without even thinking and the press stayed silent how lame is that?

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A lesson learned late

We all have this, we stump our heads into a wall, some in ignorance, some through stubbornness, ideologically and the last group through determination. I am one of these four. As I bring the bad news first, I need to talk about myself. I got an extension on a test which might not be a massive one in points, but I am in a state where every point counts! Hoping to save up to 15 points on a test 44 pages long. My little big horn is a ‘Memorandum of Detailed Opinion‘. I still have 30 hours of work actual to go and I had to restart as I was turning my ‘Other Applicable Revocation Issues’ into a mesh of Titanic distraught and the deep dark feeling when you are at the top of a truly high building (like the Hancock building) and you see the street 100 flights down, that one step through the glass looks suddenly so appealing, such dread! I feel a little better, especially as I started fresh again, things are slowly adding up, connections are now coming to life. the smallest issue I had initially was a part in section 40 of the Patents Act 1990disclose the best method known to the applicant of performing the invention‘, this and a personal believe that my professor was intertwining ‘best method’ with the mathematical approach to describing Cantonese had an impact too. Yet those feelings were all between my own ears. You see, this is the first subject ever in history, where I got confronted with the limitation of my thinking. This has never happened before! We all face the music that we do not get something, but in most cases someone explains, someone aides or you find a supporting document that helps you. We all have that. No, I mean that feeling you get when your life depends on the next conversation and the one part you were not told is that everyone speaks Aramaic, that level of non-comprehension!

Yet, I also feel stronger today, because the light suddenly came on and I am starting to put it together. I took longer than I expected and if I had not been confronted with bad news last week that stress would not have stopped me from completing my assignment. Getting told you need to find another apartment tends to do that to a person whilst his exam just started. So as I finished my notes for tonight, prepping to get loads done tomorrow, I had to write this. You see, this intersects with something I read yesterday on my mobile, I believe.

That part was about Xbox boss Phil Spencer. Microsoft has always been about ideology and ignorance, so to call this part ideological ignorance is not too big a leap. Spencer stated that he was not interested in beating Sony, he was interested in gaining customers, as many as possible. In my view, his predecessors ‘messed’ it all up. I reckon not intentionally. In my view Microsoft was convinced that the TPP would have been in effect now and the steps initially made towards the XB1 would have been massively exploitative, with the law allowing them to destroy certain markets (the preowned game market for one). This all took a step back towards a streaming enterprise that did not quite make it off the floor. The 2013 promise of a 300,000 servers for gamers in one cloud. The quote is in light of the backwards compatibility claim a little hilarious: “Microsoft’s Don Mattrick stated “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards”” (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/05/24/spin-dryers-by-microsoft/). Even then I claimed how stupid the 500 GB thought was. Sony made the same mistake, but with the Sony version a person can update when he/she is ready, the XB1 does not allow for that. In that same article I chewed on some of the presented facts: “Their on-line system is now getting grown from the initial 15,000 servers now that Xbox 360 uses, to 300,000 servers from the moment the next Xbox is launched. It is a 2,000% growth in data collection and over 200,000% storage capacity. If foundations of business are set to return-on-investment, then ask yourself why a gaming system requires that level of growth“, a question that was never answered, but with the TPP, the streaming and the data requirements, it was about the gamer, it was how he/she could best be exploited. That was the view that my mind saw and so far I have been proven correct in almost every way. The next quote supports all this “In all honesty Microsoft Marketing did state that there will be pre-owned possibilities, yet they have not officially stated how this EXACTLY will play out, so we await clarity by Microsoft“, consider that part, if the TPP would have been in effect that part would have costed gamers dearly, so in all this, we can speculate that Don Mattrick was no more than the bearer of bad news and his career took a massive tumble. Now we get Phil Spencer and how this is about gamers. A 2 year stretch that now demands a 145 degree course adjustment. The weird thing is that if the decision makers realised their audience in the era of Xbox and Xbox 360, they should have known what gamers wanted, and adjusting that with their own view of exploitation is a misplaced view to say the least.

So as I see myself ignorant and determined, I also see Microsoft as ideologically ignorant. Ideological in their pursuit of maximising profit any way they can and ignorant to consider that gamers would take this lying down. Microsoft now set at less than 40% of what Sony has, losing the market share the 360 had grown, how stupid is that? The big issue is still that Mettrick and Spencer leave the feeling of being no more than puppets on a string, jumping to the needs of the decision makers behind the screens of Microsoft. Their strings to be cut at a moment’s notice. It is the second failing compared to Sony. Yet, in all this I must admit that Sony is likely to work in similar ways, but in a much better setting as their focus has been the gamer for 4 iterations of their console. That does account for something.

I feel that I learned my lesson late, hopefully not too late and the next two weeks will be about work 24%, study 48% and the rest is about trying to get sleep, food and an apartment. I feel strengthened as my eyes open towards the issues I could not solve for almost 10 days. I also feel better as Microsoft seems oblivious towards the gain they lost whilst they should have known better, in that respect Gamespot (who was source to most of the Microsoft information) should also have known better and as they seem to hide behind the PS4 vs XB1 console war, they have done too little regarding the investigation on the business decisions that did hurt a contending console and forced it towards a gloomier place. We can all admit that backwards compatibility will gain them momentum, yet in the end it will be about good games and yes, Microsoft has done a decent job, but with the lost field, decent will not hack it.

So I end this article with a personal message to Phil Spencer. Phil, I am not blaming you (which would be unfair), I am not having a go at you (which would be too easy), yet I will do your job for you this one instance. There is a game coming, it is nowhere near ready at present, but it is getting there. It is for PC and it has the option of becoming every bit as addictive as Minecraft currently is. So another masterpiece by an indie developer! The game is called Heat Signature as it shows massive promise. This game could propel the XB1 even further. The quirkiness and the connected options for multiplayer could be next thing people desire. The single player part is showing real promise. So instead of waiting and having to shell out another 2 billion for a game Microsoft didn’t create, so how about getting in front of a repetitive timeline for a change?

Heat Signature (heatsig.com) is able to be uniquely placed next to Elite Dangerous, Eve Online, Star Citizen and No Mans Sky. It can exist next to all of them and will be as entertaining to all those who play the other mentioned titles. I suggest that you keep your eye on @HeatSig (Twitter address) and feel free not heeding my word (I have only been wrong 4 times in the last 30 years when it comes to gaming), so I am due another failure. Yet the stats go hugely my way and as such I predict that Heat Signature, a Tom Francis production which was, as I remember it a Johnny Chiodini discovery evolve into a true contender for being the next big thing (as an indie developer title).

In all this, am I too ideological when it comes to gaming? That is a fair question and I must ask this from myself if I want to remain connected to a field I have been involved in since 1983. I believe so and games like Fallout 4 show my view to be a good one. In equal part Elite Dangerous shows that true passion for a game can last decades (something Blizzard also proved with the Diablo series) and in all this Ubisoft squandered it and Microsoft rejected their view only to get bitten on their sitting area really hard. The future belongs to the believers, because faith has always been the most pure and natural driving force. It got me my law degree it got me to the final stage of my MIP and it can get anyone to their place of achievement. Greed is never an achievement! Will Microsoft learn from their mistakes? That remains dubious because the puppeteers behind the screens remain an unknown. I do believe that illuminating them could shed light on the problem and truly propel the world of gamers forward as the onslaught of counterproductive acts end up getting terminated with extreme prejudice. EA has 7 months left to learn their lesson and not fall into the traps with Mass Effect Andromeda, traps that Ubisoft seems to be unable to avoid. Still, if they are unable to do that, John Oliver will be able to have a little fun here too.

 

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How it should be

I have had my issues with the latest released games. No quality previews, no quality exams, just after released reviews. In that regard Gamespot has lost a lot of respect in the eyes of many gamers. An example is Dying Light released on January 27th (Digital copy) and reviewed by Kevin VanOrd on January 30th, 2015. It is at present debatable what value Gamespot has left for the gamers at large.

In opposition to this is the review by ‘the RadBrad’ Published on December 10th 2014 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLHR5smxbsc).

To be honest I have never been too much for Zombie games and Zombie movies. I have seen a few good ones, but it was never my cup of tea. Why tell you this part? Because this game, as far as shown by RadBrad blew me away! This game looks beyond awesome. The graphics are smooth and it looks pretty detailed. When I took a second slow look, there were a few little ‘glitch’ like parts, but they were minimal. The graphics in the houses and rooms were top notch. This was the PC edition, so I am curious regarding the PS4 edition, time will tell. The video is a must if you are interested in this game. So now I get to the second issue. Kevin rated the game 7 out of 10 with as one bad mark ‘Too many missions are either boring, frustrating, or just plain bad‘. The first hour video (by Radbrad) shows a clear intro on how to play the game, which was pretty amazing. So, the question becomes how this game was just set to 7/10 (partially questioning Kevin’s reasoning). The game is very open world, but still scripted into missions, all in Zombie style. The approach is not unlike several RPG games, now in a modern setting. Here I get my first issue, Infamous: Second son, a game that started good, but then declined in many ways gets a rating higher than this game. So far this game is all full on great, so let’s take another look at the game. When I looked at the smooth Gamespot view, I did see the critique given, there is however an issue, these glitches seem to be PC glitches, were the consoles not compared? That is all a factor, especially as PC, Xbox One and PS4 are all separate consumer markets. YouTube also had a review by Playstation Access (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AyhZyOMX6A), showing that the PC version had superior graphics, yet the PS4 version still looked really good. So as such, it seems that Dying Light is a different challenge for those into RPG’s and a passion for watching the waking dead, Dying Light seem to successfully combine the two.

Now for the timeline, what was shown by RadBrad, which was not a finished version showed a lot more quality than the Gamespot version. There is of course a difference, Gamespot covers quickly in 5 minutes, what RadBrad takes an hour to show, which gives you a better overall view, but of course, seeing the actual first 2 missions are at that point a massive spoiler. Considering that the first two missions are all about getting the feel of the game, it is not a biggie.

For the most, my biggest issue is that RadBrad covered better and more in depth almost 6 weeks before Gamespot could be bothered to do so. I do not care about the reasoning, they are supposed to be the big boys, and all sponsored up by Ubisoft no less, so the delay and lack of view is not excusable. I am not attacking Kevin on the review, glitches and issues. They are his view (and he is entitled to them), and in the movie he clearly shows the glitches. It is so interesting that the consumer was denied this insight with Assassins Creed Unity until after the game was released in the shops. Dying Light will arrive in stores in 3 weeks; the digital copy is available now (for those who cannot wait).

So, how should things be?

That is at the core, when I was a reviewer; I had access to games usually 3-4 weeks before release. In a few instances that gap was a lot less, but it did not happen too often.

Should we allow for reshaped originality?

That is the question that is linked to all this as new markets are starting to open up. It seems that Sony is finally seeing the light. Perhaps better is the fact that they are seeing the light they initially ignored and now, a year later we are slowly seeing ‘new’ versions appear, new version of previously released games. This is not a bad thing or an issue. Is borderlands 2 any less original now on the PS4 when it was released on the 360/PS3 over a year ago? The game was amazing fun and will give loads of pleasure to the new additions on nextgen systems. The linked issue to all this, is how it will be reviewed. Even it is a transfer, even if it is a combination of the game and DLC parts, will it be properly looked at?

The next step reviewers should investigate is what I would call a ‘redundancy level’ of gaming. To ‘accommodate’ the marketing divisions to optimise their path, some companies have done away with massive levels of quality control. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Far Cry 4, Assassins Creed Unity, GTA5 and the list seems to go on, all have the same problem, when you buy the game, you are again forced online to download a day one patch, many of them well over 1Gb. It seems that for the most offline play is a thing of the past. Sony and Microsoft needed their data and they will take whatever path they need to get it. So is the last part true, or is it a path that is only in my imagination? For Halo that patch was not 1Gb, it was 20Gb, which means that for some the patch represents no less than 30% of their download bandwidth, which also makes it over 10% of the total hard drive space of the Xbox One, a little excessive, isn’t it? In addition, when looking at the Gamespot review (at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/halo-the-master-chief-collection-review/1900-6415958/), we see that not only was the review done 4 days after release, but the day one patch issue (the mandatory 20Gb download) did not get any mention, yes, the game did not get a decent rating (6 out of 10 is not that good), but when looking at the ‘bad’ points, the mention of the day one patch is blatantly not there either. So whether we like a revamp of a game, it seems that reviewers need to up their game by a fair bit, a side Gamespot has not been on par with.

These events all link to another issue, which is now getting more and more negative visibility to the audience at large. That negative view only became stronger when Sony got hacked again, and even though not deserved, Microsoft is getting hit by this negative paint to some degree as well. It seems a little too simple to call this ‘conspiracy theory’, yet from their own site we get “Collection and use of your information by Sony Online Services is governed by the SNEA Privacy Policy, which can be found here: http://www.qriocity.com/us/en/legal-privacy“. The link throws you to a generic page where we see a menu and no privacy policy. How interesting such an oversight, whilst this was a direct link, perhaps the privacy policy was removed? In addition, no matter how much we protect our system, no matter how strong our passwords were, the fact that at Sony we find the following: “We do not require that website visitors reveal any personally identifying information in order to gain general access to our websites. However, visitors who do not wish to, or are not allowed by law to share personally identifying information, may not be able to access certain areas of our websites, participate in certain activities, or make a purchase from the PlayStation®Shop“, which is nice, because that is where the patches seem to be, so again, your data is collected, which is than downloaded because of failing security measures and shared with the world. This also has influence on gaming as such, the fact that a less than acceptable version is sold, means that the gamer is not getting value for money. No matter how great the update is, we need to be online and lose time downloading the patch and installing it, with all the additional loss of hard drive space.

This is however not about data collection, but there was a reason for the mention. As we go to ‘reshaping originality’ and ‘how things should be’, we see that even though PS4 started a relaunch with ‘The last of Us‘, which was the last gem on PS3, it is not close to being the only one. The Russian based game Metro is another ‘re’-launch. The question then becomes, will the reviewer take their time to take a proper look at these games? We have seen lack of reviewing with true new titles, how much more lacking will a relaunched title be?

Time will tell, but there is definitely a little less time as gamers are less and less positive about the quality of the latest launches, I also suspect that as the ball is fumbled in both places (reviewer and game maker) that people are less inclined to buy and more inclined to get to a place like Pirate Bay to get the goods and properly test the game, however, there will be a definite drop in revenue for the game maker here. They partially only have themselves to blame, because this has happened before! We saw similar steps when the CBM-64 and Atari-800 were out and even more issues in the time of the Commodore Amiga and Atari-ST. The consumer demands a decent quality game and they want it when it is released (a global thing), not 6 months later on a local market. The second issue has been successfully fought in the past, and it is not as bad as it used to be, but as digital copy and physical copy are too far apart in price and release dates, people will resort to other means, the fact that digital copies tend to be well over 40% more expensive in Australia then in other places is another matter that is angering the gamers and as such, the move towards a place like Pirate Bay is slow, but also slowly but surely is getting a lot more profound.

So how should things be?

 

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As we trusted games

There is an interesting article in the Guardian I had an issue with to some degree. There is nothing wrong with the article itself, Keith Stuart made a good piece and it reads well (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/13/games-reviews-are-changing-from-product-assessments-to-tourist-guides), so it came out last week and I only saw it just now.

First paragraph: “A decade ago, a games publisher would send out early copies of its latest release to magazines and websites. It would arrive with some sort of embargo restricting the date of any subsequent review coverage. Then, before the game hit the shelves, there would be range of critical responses to read through. That’s how games reviewing worked for 30 years“, well apart from the embargo, which I was never got. That is pretty much how it went. I started my reviewing in 1988. The age of CBM-64,  Atari ST, CBM Amiga and the IBM PC, which had something graphically ‘state of the art’ called ‘EGA’, the enhanced graphic adapter, which added up to the 15” resolution roughly the same of the average low level smart phone today. Games were in CGA and even though the quality of graphics was low, the quality of gaming was exceptionally high (for what we knew in those days). Roberta Williams (Sierra-on-Line), Peter Molyneux (Bullfrog), Richard Garriott (Origin) and Sid Meijer (Microprose) were the titans of gaming; they are the most profound, but not the only ones from those days.

The second part is the first part I disagree with “Now, it’s so much more complicated. Publishers don’t like releasing code early. It’s not just about protecting sales of mediocre titles (though that happens): they worry about piracy; they worry about major spoilers that could put players off purchasing a game that is highly narrative driven“, I personally believe that it is about mediocre titles. The worry of piracy is less an issue, for the reasons that consoles don’t really allow for piracy any more (compared to the days of Atari ST and Amiga), PC Games need more and more internet authentication (like 99.99% of them), and there is a truth in narrative driven games. When a $50 MGS Zero can be played in less than 30 minutes (according to Gamespot), you know that there is an issue. I go for the mediocre side, because in case of Ubisoft, we saw Watchdogs, AC Unity and now Far Cry 4, Far Cry 4 might have gotten themselves a 85% rating (only 70% on Gamespot), yet this is below par (for such a triple-A title), it means that Ubisoft failed to deliver a main title with a 90% plus game review this year, which is a really bad thing. In addition, Destiny didn’t make the high numbers and on the PlayStation 4, the only titles that truly showed the rating was ‘The last of us’ an amazing game originally released on PS3. From my point of view, it is one of the worst release years in a long while. No matter how new Nextgen consoles are, there is a level of competency lacking more and more.

This links directly to the next part of the article “With triple-A releases now costing $30-50m a pop, no wonder the companies responsible want to control the dissemination of their data and messaging. As in movies, everything is geared toward that opening week – millions of dollars of marketing, the acres of shelf space bought at key retailers – everything has to work just right“, if everything has to work just right, it made me wonder why quality assurance was not managed in better ways. If we see the failing that Assassins Creed Unity shows, gaming is overdue for an overhaul, especially considering the cost of such a triple-A game.

It saddens me to say, as a Sony fan, it did hurt me to see that PS4 gamers have not met the high octane game quality I had expected, I was personally more impressed with several titles exclusive on the Xbox One.

The next part is one I do completely agree with “And then the games themselves have changed. Most new titles have intricate and extensive online multiplayer elements – or they require you to be online just to download updates and/or because publishers want to keep an eye on you“, even though in several regards online play is less and less appealing, or just plainly inferior, the updates are more and more an issue. GTA-V, which is regarded as a good game ended up having a day one 1 Gb+ update need. Which is not the worst, but it shows a level of pressure to market deadlines and not quality. Our broadband internet connections seem to have removed the need of quality testing and fixing before release.

Then we get the part that is indeed an issue “The industry is always telling us that games aren’t products anymore, they are services. You get the initial release, but after that, you get updates, downloadable content, new modes, missions and experiences … So what are you reviewing when a game comes out? It’s potential? It’s raw functionality? You are not reviewing the complete experience anymore” Keith is nailing the nail on the head with a massive hammer, we are now getting a service, not software, but if we see the option that a bought game is nothing more than a service or a potential, how can we be treated fairly as a consumer, when we do not know the full article we are buying? It is a dangerous development when we buy not a game, but a concept. We are not there yet, but the danger is slowly creeping towards the installation drive of the computer we use for gaming, and with that approach is a larger and larger danger that the PC/console will get invaded in a hostile way and how can we be protected when not the system, but the game becomes the backdoor into our private lives, because that is a danger that several parties are not yet looking at (as far as I know).

The rest of the article, you should just read on the Guardian site. I do not completely agree, but Keith gives a good view of his reasoning and it is sound and well worth reading. The question becomes where will we go next? There is more and more indication that people (gamers), are less and less interested in the MMO/multiplayer experience and more into a quality solo play game. There is also a feeling from many that Multiplayer is more and more about micro transactions and less about quality fun. Most will accept micro transactions in free multiplayer games like ‘Blacklight’ and ‘War frame’, we can accept micro transactions to get the weapons that really pack a punch, yet with $90 games, people are not interested in additional charges. Even though in the situation of Black Flag, the additional $4 to get the weapons or technology advantage is nice, and the option clearly states that the upgrades can be gotten in the game whilst playing it. It is left to the person to choose. There is nothing bad about it, but when we see AC: Unity, where micro transactions can get up to $100, questions should be asked, even if those parts can be unlocked through playing. Now, I am not judging the $100 micro transactions, but there is a worry why such a purchase is even offered, how much can be leaped through? The worry is not with Ubisoft’s Assassins Creed: Unity, but after the ‘lessons’ many players were taught through Forza 5 how unsettling micro transactions were. Yet, in all honesty (as I am not an Xbox one user), can they be normally unlocked? If so, the issue is not really there, yet the value of high end cars, when we consider that in Forza 5 you get driver payouts of 35,000. However, some cars go into the millions, you need 285 level updates to be able to afford the 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO and that is only one of many cars, which seems to be an unacceptable way to push people towards micro transactions, it left many players with a bad taste in their mouths. If we look at the issues we see, no matter how we feel about a game, there are sides we’d not agree with and there are sides we are truly against. This varies per player, and as such we need to balance view and feelings, because there is no denying that gaming and games are all about emotions. We go for the games that drive our passion. I myself have been a massive RPG fan, yet when I look at the Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) game, I see little interest to continue this path, yet when I look at Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3, I see and I experienced the best multi-player ever. To illuminate, ME3 has micro transactions, yet the boxes can be gotten by playing multi-player games, each round gets you credits and the higher leveled you played, the more coins you would get, and then you buy a box with random stuff, some good, some amazing and some average. Diablo has no micro transactions; multi-player there is just great and makes the bosses harder, which gives you better loot. There are not the only good games, there are more, and there are many games are nowhere near this good.

In the end it is about good gaming and plenty of games have it, but my issue is as mentioned earlier, overall quality is down, more often not properly tested, whilst as Keith Stuart states it, newer games seem to be about buying the concept, not the finished product. How games get higher in graphical quality, yet not in gaming quality. Is it just about the new systems, or are we faced with a new level of designers, that cannot stand up to the older titans, the actual visionaries. Titles like System Shock (1+2) can, when graphically updated, compete with the RPG games that were released almost 20 years later. If you want to consider First Person Shooters, then in my mind, Metroid Prime 1+2 are top notch achievements that have not been equaled. They were released on a system inferior to the PS3 and Xbox 360, so why are there no games of that calibre? Well, that would not be honest, they have games of that calibre, but they are equals at best, two games, and the first one 12 years old.

This shows the issue I have with the statements some make. ‘A new game each year’, now we must allow for the fact that marketeers will make wild statements at any given place to keep the press at bay and well fed, so we should not overly ‘analyse’ that part. An example can be found when we look at the Tomb raider series, a series that has seen highs and less so. The series also illuminates a flaw in the gaming industry, when we consider the earlier games we see an amount of gaming that is unparalleled, especially when we consider the first two games. No matter the graphic levels, the games were truly large in comparison and some of the levels were amazing in design. The cistern in the first one and the ship in the second one show a level of design the last one cannot even compete with. What took days in the first two games, took a mere 15 hours in the last game. I will agree that the graphics were amazingly unreal in that game, the game looks large but the levels are in the end small. I saw it as opportunities missed on several levels, but not for the quality of graphics. the interesting side is that Tomb Raider shows the gaming industry as it moved from storyline and innovation towards graphics and narration, which is not that big a mystery. Yet in that shift we have lost levels and game time. Which is why the appeal of RPG is vastly growing, the option to play long times, to visit places and go it your own way and speed, not hindered by narration, scripted events and scripting is more and more appealing to the gamers at large.

Even though many are focusing on the next generation of systems, the next level of gaming is not ready. As I see it, 2015 will show a large rise in quality of gaming, but the true gems will not come until 2016. Mass Effect 4 could be such a game, but will we see true innovation, or will we see a sliding line as the Assassins Creed series have shown. This thought also has a drawback. Good gaming is based on vision, a franchise is about evolutions and forward momentum, but visionary is not a given, but for good gaming an essential need. This is where the wheels tend to come off the wagon. God of War 3 brought that, the AC series did not, it brought iteration. Mass Effect might, and so far, the hype of No man’s sky is likely to bring new boundaries in gaming, but the reality is not always a given and as such, we can only wait and keep faith with the developers, which is why their change and their approach to gaming is so essential to us. There are of course issues with other approaches too. Even though the title ‘Whore of the Orient‘ sounds appealingly original, but will it be so? Time will tell! The danger isn’t what will be good and what won’t be. The issue is that we know how rare visionaries in gaming are. The last proven one was Markus Persson (maker of Minecraft) and Microsoft bought his idea for a mere 2 billion (it’s not that much when you say it fast), which is the highest amount paid for a gaming IP EVER! Consider Microsoft paying that much for one title and you know how rare visionaries in this field are, which is exactly why games are not set in one year increments, and why franchises seem to be key for gaming, but there is a new iteration that some forgot. The upcoming release of Elite, a revamp from the original game decades old, shows that good games are rare and will stand the test of time. The initial interest for Elite could be regarded as proof for that.

So is this about trusted games, trusted developers or new endeavours?

I have one thought, but I keep it to myself, it is important that you the reading gamer make up your own mind. I have given my thoughts on that what I experienced and what I value. I ignored some parts as they are not my cup of gaming, which we all have, out there are leagues of GTA lovers; I am not one of them. I do not debate the 90%+ score, gaming is for gamers and there is space for all of us, no matter which part we run to, from Silent Hills to Mario land. there is space for all of us, some will slaughter in the world of Unity, some crush in the lands of Diablo, we have our preferred places, yet the overall issue is not where we play or who we play as, but the quality of what we play is now in question, it has been in question for some time now and it seems to be getting more and more visible as the industry is pushing for revenue on 5 systems. My direct worry is that we end up with a product based on a 60% effort, which is something none of us had signed on for.

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